Demonstrated effectiveness of biological inspiration from the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory on mobility systems

UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering.

The Poly-PEDAL Laboratory has provided biological inspiration toward the design of a 6-legged robot called Devers built by a Master’s student advisee (Ashley Powers) in Mechanical Engineering at Berkeley in the laboratory of David Aushlander. Sprawled posture animals with large lateral and opposing leg forces can self-stabilize. Devers uses legs oriented in the horizontal plane and had sufficient stability to operate at nearly one meter per second without closed loop negative feedback to the artificial muscles.Devers uses braided pneumatic actuators as artificial muscles.


Hexapod operating in horizontal plane with artificial muscles


i-Robot Inc.

The Poly-PEDAL Laboratory has provided biological inspiration for the design of a robot named Ariel produced by i-Robot. This mobility system is the only legged platform that can move on land or underwater in the surf zone much like true amphibians – crabs.

In collaboration with M. Koehl & M. Matinez, we suggested methods to minimize drag and acceleration reaction with streamlined shape of body and leg design. We provided insight on leg design to minimize the degrees of freedom to simplify control, use a variable stance width for high stability as well as high bottom clearance. We suggested actuator placement to take advantage of inertia distribution for stability. We revealed useful behaviors such as pitching – changing the angle of attack for negative lift, grasping, burrowing, climbing and righting. The difficulty animals had with body control led engineers to use a non-biological solution of invertability.


Autonomous amphibious legged robot


i-Robot Inc.

Providing biological inspiration to i-Roboti for the design of a robot that can climb walls and ceilings called the Mecho-gecko. The next design will be a legged Hexa-gecko. Complete dynamics of gecko and cockroach climbing supplied design ideas relating to preloading the adhesive, peeling the adhesive, the use of hybrid mechanisms (wet adhesion, dry adhesion and interlocking with claws and spines) and differential leg function. Discovery of how individual hairs on the gecko’s foot function is leading to the first attempt at the manufacturing of a dry adhesive.


Climbing vehicle



Stanford University.

Providing biological inspiration to Stanford University (Mark Cutkosky) for the design of a highly mobile, compliant legged robot. Stanford has developed the novel capability to build flexible structures with embedded sensors and actuators that will revolutionize the design of robotic parts. Transferred concepts of differential leg function, orientation and placement in sprawled postured animals resulting in the dynamic, bouncing robot called SPRAWL built by Stanford. Determining the compliance or impedance of animal leg segments, joints and muscles to provide advice on the robotic design.


Dynamic legged robot.




University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon and Boston Dynamics.

Providing biological inspiration to the University of Pennsylvania (Daniel Koditschek), Carnegie Mellon (Al Rizzi) and Boston Dynamics (Martin Buehler) for the design of a highly mobile legged robot called the RHex. Provided data on insects maneuvering over rough terrain taking advantage of a tuned, dynamically stable mechanical system. Based on the finding that legged animals with diverse morphologies all operate as spring-mass systems, these engineers have developed a revolutionary approach to control a robot with many legs, joints and actuators (many degrees of freedom). With knowledge of how the body moves, simple rules can be developed to control the many parts that produce this movement. This approach should allow RHex to move more rapidly and to be more maneuverable than any robot built in the last 15 years.

RHex, the Robot Hexapod

Dynamically stable legged robot with simplified control



Intelligent Inferences Systems Inc.

Provided biological inspiration toward the design of a biped with artificial muscles built by Intelligent Inferences Systems Inc. (Ron Jacobs) called the Mars Walker sponsored by the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Projects. Stressed the importance of passive dynamics by an intelligent placement of tuned actuators to greatly simplify control. The Mars Walker is remarkably stable without closed loop negative feedback to the actuators

Mars Walker

Biped with artificial muscles


MIT Insect Lab.

The Poly-PEDAL Laboratory has worked with the laboratory of Prof Rodney Brooks at MIT (Insect Lab). Professor Full provided biological inspiration for a six-legged terrestrial robot named Boadicea built by Mike Binnard. Studies on cockroaches inspired the use of a very sprawled posture for stability using a linkage that still provides for a linear step. The joint axes were vertical first axes which tended to decouple the joint from gravitational loading. A differential leg design was employed which allowed overlapping workspaces. Larger workspaces translated into longer stride frequencies and an increase in speed. The robot was robust to failures in leg function as are the animals that can adopt a compensatory gait.


Hexaped with artificial muscles